The Beatles were late to the digital "Revolution," but they're "Here, There and Everywhere" on the digital charts in the week after they finally allowed their music to be sold digitally. Forty seven Beatles songs enter the Hot Digital Songs chart this week, while 17 of the group's albums enter the Top Digital Albums chart.
The Beatles sold 144,000 albums (119,000 digital albums and 25,000 CDs) in the U.S. during the week that ended Nov. 21, up from a total of just 20K the week before, according to Nielsen/SoundScan. The band sold 1.4 million individual tracks in the U.S. during the week, according to Billboard. Worldwide, the band sold more than 2 million individual tracks, according to Apple.
This is the biggest splash that any artist has made on the digital charts since Michael Jackson's posthumous sales spurt in June 2009. In the week after his death, 49 of his songs invaded Hot Digital Songs, while 17 of his albums were listed on Top Digital Albums. But while the total numbers are very similar, Jackson's songs and albums ranked much higher on the lists. Jackson had six of the top 10 on both Hot Digital Songs and Top Digital Albums. By contrast, the Beatles have only one album in the digital top 10 (Abbey Road at #8). Their top title on Hot Digital Songs is "Let It Be" at #26.
This surpasses the chart influx when the last major digital holdout, Led Zeppelin, finally came to the digital party three years ago this week. In the week ending Nov. 18, 2007, 14 of the band's songs invaded Hot Digital Songs. Seven of the band's albums, including the then-new release Mothership, entered Top Digital Albums (which was then a top 50 list).
The 10 hottest Beatles songs (and their digital sales tallies for the week) were "Let It Be" (63K), "Here Comes The Sun" (55K), "In My Life" (45K), "Hey Jude" (38K), "Come Together" (38K), "Yesterday" (34K), "Blackbird" (32K), "Twist And Shout" (30K), "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (27K) and "With A Little Help From My Friends" (26K).
Half of these 10 songs ("Here Comes The Sun," "In My Life," "Blackbird," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "With A Little Help From My Friends") weren't released as singles by the Beatles (while they were a current act). It's hard to imagine another act where their non-single album tracks are as widely known.
As a bonus, here are the 10 next hottest Beatles songs (and their digital sales tallies for the week): "I Saw Her Standing There" (25K), "Eleanor Rigby" (24K), "All You Need Is Love" (23K), "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" (22K), "Help!" (21K), "A Day In The Life" (21K), "Revolution" (20K), "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" (19K), "Strawberry Fields Forever" (19K) and "Can't Buy Me Love" (19K).
Again, three of these 10 songs ("Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," "A Day In The Life" and "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds") weren't released as singles by the Beatles (while they were a current act). Four of these other songs were released as B sides, but managed to become widely known in their own right. "I Saw Her Standing There" was the B side of "I Want To Hold Your Hand." The superb "Eleanor Rigby" was the B side of "Yellow Submarine" (if you can believe that). "Revolution" was the B side of "Hey Jude." "Strawberry Fields Forever" was the B side of "Penny Lane."
The 10 hottest Beatles albums (and their digital sales tallies for the week) were Abbey Road (16K), The Beatles In Stereo (13K), The Beatles (better known as The White Album, 12K), Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (11K), The Beatles/1967-1970 (9K), The Beatles/1962-1966 (8K), Rubber Soul (8K), Revolver (6K), Magical Mystery Tour (6K) and Let It Be (5K).
The Beatles In Stereo is a 16-CD box set. 1967-1970 and 1962-1966 are the so-called Blue and Red greatest hits albums which were released in 1973.
In August, Rolling Stone published a special issue in which its critics ranked the top 100 Beatles songs. Here's the top 10 from that list. (In parentheses, I show where the song ranks among all Beatles songs on this week's Hot Digital Songs chart.) This will give you a sense of how critics' picks (the first number) compare with the fans' choices (the second).
#1: "A Day In The Life" (#16). #2: "I Want To Hold Your Hand" (#23). #3: "Strawberry Fields Forever" (#19), #4: "Yesterday" (#6), #5: "In My Life" (#3), #6: "Something" (#25), #7: "Hey Jude" (#4). #8: "Let It Be" (#1). #9: "Come Together" (#5). #10: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (#9).
As you can see, six songs appeared in the top 10 for both fans and critics. (It's possible that the critics' list, so recently published, had an impact on fan purchases.)
The Beatles' digital bow was accompanied by an extensive marketing campaign, including TV spots that aired during Sunday Night Football and the American Music Awards, among other shows. The campaign will continue with expanded TV advertising and full-page ads in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal linked to "Black Friday" shopping.
Billboard reports that Amazon.com discounted all Beatles CDs during the week that they made their exclusive digital bow on iTunes. Amazon priced single-CD albums at $7.99, the double-disk White Album at $11.99 and the elaborate Beatles In Stereo and Beatles In Mono box sets at $130 each. By comparison, iTunes is selling individual Beatles album for $12.99 each, the White Album for $19.99 and the digital box set for $150.
Here's the detail on Michael Jackson's posthumous showing on the digital charts for the week ending June 28, 2009. (He died on June 25 of that year.) His tally of 49 hits on Hot Digital Songs included 38 solo hits, 10 songs with his brothers as the Jackson 5 (later the Jacksons) and one duet with Paul McCartney. His tally of 17 albums on Top Digital Albums included 13 solo albums and four albums with his brothers.
Led Zeppelin sold 300,000 digital tracks and 47,000 digital albums in the week that they joined the digital parade three years ago, according to Nielsen/SoundScan. The album tally includes 33,000 digital copies of Mothership, which was released that week.
It remains to be seen if this will be more than a short-lived surge for the Beatles. Some argue that the Beatles should have made their digital debut a few years ago; that it was naïve to think that fans would wait for this official release to download this prized material.
With the Beatles finally joining the digital revolution, the list of high-level digital holdouts has lost its biggest name. But there are still some prominent holdouts, including AC/DC, Garth Brooks, Def Leppard, Bob Seger, Tool and Kid Rock (who allows entire albums to be digitally, just not individual songs). Which of these acts will be next to join the digital party? Place your bets.